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Pandemic doesn’t diminish spirit of Monty Tech’s 49th annual commencement

Press releaese submitted by Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School


It may have been held two months late, and under extraordinary circumstances, but Monty Tech’s 49th annual Graduation was marked by students who were ready and well-prepared to take their place in an uncertain and challenging future.

As the students marched onto the athletic field recently, wearing masks and socially distancing, their obvious enthusiasm and spirit were not diminished by the sacrifices they endured during a senior year marked by an unprecedented world pandemic.

U.S. Marine Corps JROTC Color Guard opened the ceremony with the presentations of the colors.  Victoria R. Aragi of Holden, class secretary, led the Pledge of Allegiance.  Paige C. Spivey of Winchendon, sang the National Anthem.

Class president Bryan P. Sweeney of Hubbardston, presented the class gift to School Committee chairman Brian Walker of Fitchburg.  The gift was a cash donation to replenish the school’s supply of personal protection equipment (PPEs), masks and gloves.  The school donated much of its supplies, used by Dental Assisting and Health Occupations students, to area hospitals during the height of the pandemic.

As the graduates found their seats, Principal Thomas R. Browne quipped that after all they had to endure this year, they “could take their time finding their seats.”

He went on to thank the class for not letting the sacrifices they experience this year keep them from accomplishing their goal of graduating.  “Obviously the Class of 2020 missed out on a lot of the traditional end-of-the-year celebrations.  A lot was sacrificed leading up to this day, and I want to thank all of the graduates for their patience and ongoing commitment to Monty Tech pride!”

Monty Tech graduates, wearing masks and observing social distancing, wait to receive their diplomas at the school’s 49th annual Commencement held recently on the athletic fields. (Courtesy photo)

“Of course, he continued, “a lot of what the students went through was also experienced by the parents and guardians who struggled watching their son or daughter experience such losses.  However, there is no doubt in my mind that these graduates would not be here without your ongoing support and we thank you all,” he said.

Superintendent-Director Dr. Sheila M. Harrity greeted the graduates and guests and highlighted how different and unique Monty Tech students are from their peers at more traditional high schools.

“I see before me a group of students who are, in fact, so very different from their peers.  Monty Tech graduates cannot help but stand out. They are CNAs, masons, machinists and cosmetologists---all before they cross this stage. They are apprentice plumbers and electricians, chefs and graphic artists, bankers, technicians and welders. And many will further their vocational aspirations, pursuing a college degree to become engineers, educators, dental technicians and architects.  Monty Tech grads are unlike any other---you were made to stand out,” she said.

“You wanted a place that would allow you to grow and try new things and learn and fail---all in a safe and supportive place.  And I hope that when you look back at your years here you can say that is exactly what you found here at Monty Tech,” she added.

She encouraged the students to “reach high” as they leave high school and embark on adulthood.   “You are ready to make your mark in this world, and we are so honored to be part of your story.  With every decision you make, ever goal you set for yourself, I only ask this---reach high!  Do not set the bar low.  Demand more from yourself---and know that you are so capable,” she said.

Class valedictorian Kathleen E. Fahey of Ashburnham commented that it was strange seeing her classmates after leaving school in a hurry due to the pandemic. “It’s hard to believe we are no longer freshmen, struggling to get through Beowulf in English class. Now, we have to become adults who make their own appointments, pay bill and vote.  While I’m sure 2020 was nowhere close to the graduating year any of us imagined, I hope you all found ways to make it better. We will never be able to experience a traditional senior year, however, 2020 will be memorable for sure,” she said.

She urged the students to continue to have fun with everything they do, spread some kindness and “keep the world on its toes.”

Her classmate and fellow dental assisting major, Alison G. Miller of Winchendon, gave the salutatorian address. She talked about the uncertainty the students experienced as their senior year was cut short.  “When we stopped going to school in March and made the transition to online learning, it was unknown whether or not we would be able to have this day that is so important to many of us.  Thank you for letting us dress up and receive our diplomas in person, because no zoom call could ever come close to being all together for one last time, walking across the stage,” she said.

“We are the graduating class that dealt with so much this year.  We deserve to be proud of ourselves and all our accomplishments,” she added.

Both students will be attending college to continue their studies in the dental and medical fields.

Although a few of the 333 senior class members were unable to make the ceremony due to military and work obligations, Browne said he was going to read every student’s name when their class mates marched the stage to receive their diplomas.  “They all deserve it,” he said.

A fairly new tradition at Monty Tech graduations is to have the students who are entering the military wear red, white and blue cords and stand and be recognized.

In his parting remarks, Browne spoke about ordinary people doing heroic things, particularly during these traumatic times.  “Obviously, the last few months, have shown that the world can be a dangerous place.  However, we have witnessed that when there is danger, we can be assured that heroes will come to our rescue.  Not super heroes, but regular people doing super things.  Nurses, technicians, teachers, construction workers, soldiers and chef are all capable of doing heroic things. So, I wish you all good luck and urge you to go out into the world and become someone’s hero.”

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